The Dixes In A Nutshell (2004 Update):
The Dix Range offers a different kind of experience than the other High Peaks. The ascents can be steeper, harder to get to, less well maintained, not at all maintained, or any combination of these factors. Because there are a number of herd paths ascending the Dixes, they are also a bushwhacker's paradise, but they require caution and may demand map and compass skills when you least expect. Generally speaking, at some point while up in the Dixes you will pull out your compass and use it in the manner for which it was intended. Otherwise, you will just guess. The Dixes should not be taken for granted and routes should be planned carefully in advance. Stick to your plan and make sure somebody knows which trailhead you're entering/exiting from. This is especially true if you are planning to summit all 5 peaks on one ascent, which is possible, but strenuous.
One of the first and most important things to know about the Dix Range is that there are 3 marked trails noted in the above table. These are DEC-maintained trails from state trailheads to Dix Mt.'s summit. All other routes, including descents/ascents and all the summit-to-summit routes within the Dix Range, are unmarked and often difficult to discern since Hurricane Floyd came through in 1999 forcing hikers to find imaginative routes around blow-down and, thereby, brought about the creation of numerous new herd paths, many of which are false and can lead one astray. Inexperienced hikers are well advised to avoid the Dix Range. A compass and map is essential. Extra food and water rations are important.
Marked & Maintained Trails:
The yellow trail ascends one of the Dix slides. It starts at Dix's base at the RED trail and ends at the Beckhorn.
Starting at the Elk Lake Trailhead, another RED trail ascends Dix's NE slope to its summit. This trail is the most often used approach to the Dix Range. The BLUE trail starts at Rte 73 near Chapel Pond and joins into the RED trail about 15-20 minutes below Dix's summit.
Path Conditions Summit-to-Summit:
The Dix Range is composed of Dix Mtn, Hough Peak, South Dix, East Dix (Grace Peak), and Macomb Mtn. The connecting path is unmarked and always has been. Nevertheless, until Hurricane Floyd it was a well defined herd path, not hard to follow. Due to Hurricane Floyd's passage in 1999, however, much of the herd path was lost due to obstructions such as fallen trees that forced hikers to find new routes through. Unfortunately, this has led to a large number of herd paths that go nowhere, go in circles, or take you where you don't want to go. In 2002, it was helpful to mark off compass bearings on your map and rely on them more than the "paths".
Specifics on the Paths in the Dixes
The summit-to-summit herd paths are crude and often brushed-in, but this will be widely variable from summit to summit. This will slow you down some, and is occasionally tedious. From Hough to South Dix be very attentive to which herd path you follow. Go slow, be alert, and mind your compass bearings. Yes, a compass is a very useful back-up on this hike once you're on the herd paths and off the state-maintained trails.
The presence of a hill that is located between Hough and South Dix may cause confusion. This small summit is not an open summit; rather it is treed-in like all the rest of the forest. Nevertheless, it has a name: Pough. A hiker coming from Hough might well arrive on Pough and think he was at South Dix. This mistake would, in turn, cause further confusion. Hence the advisability of a compass.
From South Dix to Macomb once again there are a few diverging and converging herd paths. This seems to change from year to year. In most cases, herd paths that split will soon reconnect. Trust only your compass. Ensue you stay on the ridgeline from peak-to-peak. Be wary of any significant downhill since this may indicate that you've left the herd path. (Occasionally, the herd paths may be hard to discern depending on weather, plant growth, and recent traffic.)
Hikers are well advised to avoid herd paths leading or down from the South Dix - Macomb col. At the base of Hough and Macomb, particularly around Lillian Brook, blow-down from Hurricane Floyd is stacked 4-10 feet deep for about a half mile. Much of it is nearly impenetrable.. details
All DEC and other marked trails are in normal good-to-excellent condition.
All in all, the Dix Range is not for the inexperienced, the physically unprepared, or the unequipped hiker. Other so-called untrailed peaks in the Adirondacks pretty much conform to the standard of the ATIS, ADK, or DEC maintained trails except that they lack trail markers and signs. The Dixes, however, have not as yet seen this type improvement and, frankly, we hope they will not as they remain the most rugged of the High Peaks. If a bit of uncertainty and challenge adds to your idea of adventure, then the tour of the 5 Dix Range may be just your thing.
You must have a compass and USGS map. Be prepared for a storm. Have emergency shelter and food for overnight.
Best Tips for the Dix Range
1. Before leaving home use your compass and map to take the bearing from each of the Dix peaks to the next following the route you intend to take. When you get to the first summit, compare the actual bearing of the next peak to the one you recorded from the map
2. As you progress through the hike, even if the herd path seems obvious to you and you see the peak you believe you are hiking to in the distance, Note: The Dixes are full of herd paths that go nowhere.
3. If a herd path seems to be leading you astray, STOP. Figure it out before proceeding. Don't guess.
4. The Dixes invite rain for some reason, if the weather brings fog and rain, the need to know where you are is very apt to become easier said than done. Have a bail-out plan before you climb.
5. Don't hike alone, be equipped and prepared to spend the night if you have to.
6. There's no water in the Dixes.
Dix Range Overview
Click a Route Below:
Dix Mtn. from Elk Lake
This trail is state-maintained trail from the trailhead that is just before Elk Lake Inn on Elk Lake Rd. all the way to the summit of Dix Mtn. This trail is well marked.
Grace Peak Via the Great Slide
Covers the bushwhack (herd path) route from Rte. 73 to the summit of East Dix via the Great Slide on Grace Peak